In Austin, Holder Defends Voting Rights Act

By Celeste I. Villarreal, HNBA VP – External Affairs

“Let us continue.”

With these words, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder invoked President Lyndon B. Johnson, the visionary architect of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the Civil Rights Act of 1962.

Addressing an audience of approximately eight hundred persons in the halls of the LBJ Presidential Library and Museum, AG Holder recounted the events that led to the passage of the Voting Rights Act, and the continuing necessity for the law. Recounting recent examples of voter intimidation, fraud and suppression across the country, Holder expressed the Justice Department’s deep commitment to protecting and defending the Voting Rights Act against constitutional and legislative legal challenges.

Given the current redistricting court battles in Texas, Virginia, Pennsylvania, and California and other states, the timeliness of AG Holder’s presentation is undeniable.

HNBA President Benny Agosto has declared his term to be the Year of the Advocate, and the affiliate organizations have answered the call to action. For example, HNBA affiliate Mexican-American Bar Association of Texas (MABA-TX) is an active participant in the Texas redistricting arena. Testimony at hearings by Celeste Villarreal, HNBA Vice President of External Affairs and Legislative Director for MABA-TX, during the legislative session on proposed redistricting maps resulted in collaboration with MALDEF and the Texas Latino Redistricting Task Force.

Ultimately, MABA-TX joined the Task Force Coalition and the MALDEF federal lawsuit that challenges the electoral maps enacted by the Texas Legislature. In essence, the Texas maps are considered to be in violation of sections two and five of the Voting Rights Act, and are therefore illegal. The maps fail to account for the growth in the Hispanic population, and gerrymandering of districts result in retrogression, directly infringing on the Hispanic community’s right to elect their candidate of choice. The case is currently pending in three courts and developments occur on almost a daily basis. Oral arguments are set for January 9, 2012 in the U.S. Supreme Court. Protecting the Hispanic electoral voice is of utmost importance to MABA-TX, the Task Force Coalition and HNBA.

AG Holders remarks were warmly received, and HNBA supports the Justice Department’s efforts to ensure that the Voting Rights Act is upheld and that all persons are protected at the polls.

Vamos a continuar!